A July magazine article in Runner’s World entitled, “Sitting is the New Smoking – Even for Runners,” presented the latest findings that indicate regular exercise each day may not be enough to counter the harmful health effects of sitting 9+ hours a day. With a large percentage of Americans sitting at their desks each day, in their car, and on the couch for 9 – 10 hours a day, this is worrisome news for the current health state of our modern society. Until recently, the general game plan to try to stay in decent physical shape for the working masses, who are sitting more than ever, has been to go to the gym after work, go for a daily bike ride or a walk, or be very active outdoors on the weekends. Unfortunately, new research is finding that even this amount of exercise, an average of 150 minutes a week, is not reversing the deleterious effects of so much daily sitting.
Hours of inactivity each day is correlated to increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and even depression, yet the average exercise regime is evidently not helping to improve this health trend. To improve this health trend, a basic exercise regime may need to be adapted with a new view of postural alignment.
One of the factors in this research that was not mentioned is that a degree of postural alignment can strongly impact the sitter’s overall health. The vast majority of people today sit in their office chair, car seat, or couch with their lower back rounded backward, their pelvic floor tucked under, shoulders rolled forward, and neck flat with head tipped downward toward their screen or office task. With all the posterior muscles on the back of the body relaxed and the front of the body shortening, the spine is more like the shape of a C than an S. This rounded form of the torso is initially calming to the nervous system, so it is immediately perceived as a comfortable posture by the sitter. The more relaxed the sitter becomes in this comfortable position, then the laxity of the back muscles increases, and the posture becomes even more of a C-shape. The posterior tip of the pelvis while sitting disengages the gluteal muscles, which atrophy and suffer neurological amnesia overtime from this poor postural alignment. In turn, the hip-flexors, particularly the psoas, shortens and tightens, contributing to significant misalignment in the hips and lower back, which can cause chronic low back pain.
Not only does poor sitting posture lead to musculo-skeletal pain in the hips and the lower back, the deeper negative effects could be felt at a cellular level. In her new book, Secrets of Your Cells, Sondra Barrett presents a current scientific idea that the vibratory tone of the extracellular matrix, which surrounds each cell of the body, transfers signals to the nucleus of the cell via its cytoskeleton, affecting its growth and health. Therefore, if the fascia of the body is chronically misaligned, then cells throughout the body could be receiving signals, which lead to disease. According to Barrett, “scientists are beginning to discover that some cancer cells are more rigid than normal, healthy cells, and that rigidity or stiffening triggers disorganization away from normal cell growth.” It is further shown in Secrets of Your Cells that the tension of the body-mind at a cellular level is being informed by the vibratory tonus of the outer fascia, musculature, and extracellular matrix. Too much tension or not enough tone in the outer form of the body will translate to misalignment at a cellular level.
Balanced tone in the connective tissue of the body can occur with good posture. To move into an optimal template when sitting, tip your pelvis forward so that the pelvic floor is level and the lumbar curve is lordotic all the way through T-12. This anterior tip of the pelvis properly sets all the lower back muscles (erectors, QL, multifidus) in a lordotic curve, which lays in alignment with the natural curvature of the lumbar vertebrae and T-12. The enfolding of the front groins to this degree as the pelvis tips, allows for maximum potential for engagement of the gluteus maximus, which mounds upward in contraction from the base to the top rim of the pelvis. Once the bow shape is established in the back, the musculature can be gently engaged. Then the pelvis is held steady while the torso lengthens upward. This creates a bow-spring effect, which gives maximum length, lightness, and strength to the entire torso and spine. Furthermore, good alignment of the spine can give a harmonious tone throughout the fascia, which in turn sends positive signals to the core of our cells.
When the following 3 steps of Sridaiva alignment are performed in order:
Establish the bow shape to T-12 with a radiant heart,
Engage the back muscles to the top of the glutes,
Extend the bowspring with this balanced tone from roots to wings – from pelvis through the heart to the top of the head.
This aligned posture in relationship to an optimal template of the human body can positively affect all levels of the body-mind matrix.
Antithetically, misalignment of the body-mind leads to diminishment of life force flow, and ultimately to a quicker death.
Into the 21st century we are probably all going to continue to sit many hours a day. So, what if we could actually use each hour sitting as a life practice which helps bring us greater health?
Sitting with good alignment is a life practice in which we can all become more skillful and thereby enhancing our blessed lives. With a new view you can turn a major problem into a solution, which glorifies life.